by Rev Hilda Warwick
We come to Isaiah chapter 9, with an invitation to look afresh at a very familiar passage, which has many layers.
Here we find an offer of another chance in the world, after a long period of darkness, gloom, anguish and distress. Judah is being offered that chance of newness and transformation. Light replaces darkness. Joy replaces death and deliverance replaces oppression. The darkness of Assyrian invasion is replaced with the coming of a new king, speaking of a time in the future.
The former time refers to the time of failure and oppression under the rule of Ahaz, including the pre-exilic and exilic experience of suffering. The latter time, is when new royal leadership makes peace and prosperity possible in the homecoming and restoration of Israel.
The passage marks three moments. The announcement of newness, where darkness will turn to light. Light is regularly linked to Yahweh’s coming glory, the visible evidence of His splendour, majesty and sovereignty. God was coming back into the life of Judah. We see this in the announcement of a new Davidic king, who would have the authority, resolve and capacity to reverse the fortunes of Judah.
Darkness to light would bring unrestrained celebration, seen in the words, the joy of harvest, and as men rejoice in the spoil of battle. One speaks of the joy when a harvest has been secured for another season. The other when an enemy has been defeated. When the light comes it will be both like harvest and conquest.
The second moment is the transformation brought in military victory. The yoke, staff and rod speak of oppression, which will now end. Warrior’s sandal (v5) note that the Assyrian armies were marked by the marching of many feet. This is a military success through which the assurance is given of overcoming Assyrian oppression.
The third moment is the coming of a royal agent, a child, a son, and heir to the throne of David. Born (V6) speaks of the child’s humanity and given speaks of His divinity. The king will be wise, shrewd and discerning, Wonderful Counsellor. Prince of peace, contrasting the previous regime .The new ruler will bring order and maintain peace, in stark contrast to before.
What can we notice? Yahweh’s zeal. At the beginning of this messianic prophecy, there is a reminder of God’s passion for His people .God intends that Israel will reach its destiny. Seen in the provision of a king, who would be an executor of righteousness and justice. Wonderful Counsellor immediately focusses on God as the One who effectively designs and implements a purpose. Mighty God, indicates that the Lord is a powerful warrior. Yahweh as going out to battle like a champion. Everlasting Father describes a King and Father who provides for and protects His people forever .Prince of Peace, suggests an army commander, as well as confronting by anticipation the boast of Assyria. The son’s name demonstrates God commitment to work in and through Him to bring a reign that will bring peace and justice. This may indeed be a Messianic vision, but we need to remember that the OT, does not use the word messiah for a future redeemer. Nor does it anticipate that the promise will not come to pass for centuries.
The passage is a vision of what God is committed to achieving through the line of David. This is what gives the people grounds for hope, that God is committed to the restoration of His people, even although this speaks of a time in the future. Christians will see what God did in Jesus as guaranteeing the vision’s fulfilment.
Prayer – Father thank you in this time, You are committed to our welfare, bringing us to new places through the work of Your Spirit in our midst. Help us to hold on to hope.